Harlequin comes to China wielding Butterfly Swords

December 9, 2014

A review of Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords
Guest Post by Tom Carter

Enter Jeannie Lin, Harlequin’s rising red-star of romance writing.  She isn’t the first author on Harlequin’s roster to set her books in China (that honor goes to Jade Lee and her infinite “Tigress” series).

However, Lin’s debut novel, Butterfly Swords, has been attracting a viral buzz louder than a summertime cicada not just for being the first Harlequin novel to NOT feature a man on the cover, but for using an Asian model as the cover girl, another Harlequin first.

The star of Butterfly Swords is a Chinese woman, yes.  But to give American readers something that they can relate to, the male love interest of Lin’s novel is not Chinese but a wandering whiteboy from the west.

Ryam is drifting around the Tang (618-906 AD) empire begging for food (this sounds exactly like my own travels across China!) when he spots a disguised female being attacked by a pack of marauding bandits.

The swordsman, who evokes images of bare-chested, fur underwear-wearing Thundarr the Barbarian from the eponymous 80’s cartoon, rescues her, then agrees to escort her home.

Little does Ryam know that young Ai Li is really a princess on the run from an arranged marriage to a dastardly warlord.  The two proceed on their journey together across the 7th-century frontier, getting in adventures and slowly but surely falling in love.

Pitting strength, courage and her fabulous butterfly swords against the forces of evil, Ai Li proves herself in the battlefield (“With Ai Li’s swords and determined spirit it was easy to forget that she was innocent”).

However, where the book has significant cultural crossover appeal is in author Jeannie Lin’s ability to keenly capture the multi-dimensional perspectives of both characters throughout their budding interracial relationship.

From Ryam’s course communicative abilities (“Where did you learn how to speak Chinese” Ai Li asks him, laughing. “You sound like you were taught in a brothel”) to his struggles with his inner-white demons as a big, bad bai gui (“It was so much easier to seduce a woman than talk to her”), the reader is introduced not to some empty-headed he-man but a complex male of the species who is genuinely torn between his biological needs and respecting Ai Li’s virtue.

“I don’t understand what she’s talking about half the time,” Ryam grumbles to himself. “Everything is about honor and duty.”  Surely even expats living in present-day P.R.C. can relate to this dilemma.

Ai Li, meanwhile, finds herself attracted not only to Ryam’s “musky scent” and “sleek muscles” (Harlequin prerequisites; don’t blame the authoress), but his sincerity (“There was nothing barbaric about him. His manner was direct and honest. It was her own countrymen she needed to be worried about.”).

The protagonist does find herself frustrated with “this swordsman with blue eyes and the storm of emotions that came with him,” but, true to life, Ai Li comes with her own personality flaws as well (“she was being irrational and she knew it”).

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Harlequin without passionate love scenes, something my fiancée missed in the heavily censored Chinese versions.

This Jeannie Lin does in the poetic prose of a Tang Dynasty-era pillow book yet with just enough creatively-provocative language to keep sex-numbed westerners interested (“Ryam slipped his fingers into her silken, heated flesh…her body went liquid and damp in welcome.”).  And thankfully without ever once resorting to the word “loin.”

Ryam proves himself to be an ideal lover for nubile Ai Li, “rough enough to make her breath catch, gentle enough to have her opening her knees,” though one can’t help but wonder how these two nomadic warriors can go so long without bathing nor brushing their teeth yet still manage to say things like “her mouth tasted just as sweet as he remembered.”

If only real life were as hygienic as a Harlequin novel.

One of the reasons why Harlequin is able to sell over 100 million units per year (the most profitable publishing company in the industry) is because every book is part of a series.

There are no individual Harlequin titles, which brilliantly leaves the reader yearning for more from the characters they have literally become so intimate with.  In this respect, Butterfly Swords concludes with a wide opening that screams sequel, but thankfully lacks the typical Harlequin-happy ending of matrimonial bliss.

One familiar with Chinese culture can’t help but wonder, then, what kind of future Ai Li and Ryam actually have together: in reality, Ai Li would put on weight, cut her hair short and become a shrill nag; her parents and grandparents would all move into their cramped apartment, and a frustrated Ryam, now with beer-belly, would spend more and more time at card games and with karaoke parlor hostesses than at home.

But before the infuriating realties of interracial marriage set in, we hope Jeannie Lin has at least a few more of her trademark sword fights and steamy sensuality in store.

____________________________

Travel Photographer Tom Carter traveled for 2 years across the 33 provinces of China to show the diversity of Chinese people in  China: Portrait of a People, the most comprehensive photography book on modern China published by a single author.

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Who eats Turkey in China on America’s Thanksgiving Day?

November 27, 2014

Turkey is a fowl the Chinese seldom eat. However, eating duck and chicken is common. Duck is even considered a delicacy. In fact, the Unvegan says, “No trip to Beijing is complete without eating some Peking Duck.”

Since I am a vegan, I didn’t eat Peking Duck, but I watched my wife eat it at Quan Ju De (Peking Duck) in Beijing.

The Virtual Tourist says, “It is thought that Beijing roast duck, like the tradition of roast turkey in America and the UK, owes its origin to the roast goose that is still popular in Europe on festive occasions.”

Most Americans do not celebrate the Chinese New Year (the Spring Festival) and most Chinese do not celebrate Thanksgiving. After all, Thanksgiving is an American holiday that Canadians celebrate too but on the second Monday in October.


Thanksgiving in Beijing with Peking Duck

China.org says, “From 2001 to 2005, China imported 486,000 tons of turkey, with all of the whole turkeys and 90 percent of Turkey parts coming from the US…. Currently, 70 to 80 percent of the consumers are Westerners.”

I’m assuming that Westerners eating turkey in China are there working, as tourists or are expatriates living in the Middle Kingdom and can’t do without turkey on Thanksgiving in October or November.

If you are from North America in China during Thanksgiving, you have a choice between Peking Duck, which is easy to find, and turkey.

Go China says, “Just head to your local international grocery store (Jenny Lu’s in Beijing, Cityshop in Shanghai) and stock up on all the fixings: frozen Butterball turkeys, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie makings. But you better do it fast, there tends to be a run on these items so if you’re shopping on the last Thursday in November, you’ll be out of luck.”

And maybe I should have posted this before Thanksgiving day.
:o)

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Thinking about Public Education – China and East Asia versus the United States and Western culture

November 26, 2014

To understand the Chinese mind, we should start with Confucius (552 – 479 BC), who is arguably the most influential person in Chinese history and by extension the rest of East Asia: Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia—thanks to China being a regional super power for more than two thousand years, while its merchants helped spread Chinese cultural influence and thought to the other East Asian countries they traded with.

An important Confucian influence on Chinese society and the rest of East Asia was his focus on education and scholarship, and it’s no secret that Chinese (and other Asian) students put in more hours in classroom study today than their Western counterparts—even in the United States.

In fact, we can measure the influence of Confucius on Asian-American students in the United States. For instance, in 2012, The Washington Post reported, “Researchers found that (high school) graduation rates vary by race, with 91.8 percent of Asian students, 82 percent of whites, 65.9 percent of Hispanics and 63.5 percent of blacks graduating on time.”

In China, the hallmark of Confucius’ thought was his emphasis on education and study. He disparaged those who had faith in natural understanding or intuition and argued that the only real understanding of a subject comes from long and careful study.

Confucius goal was to create gentlemen who carried themselves with grace, spoke correctly, and demonstrated integrity in all things. He had a strong dislike of the sycophantic “petty men,” whose clever talk and pretentious manner easily won them an audience of easy to fool people.

Confucius political/educational philosophy was also rooted in his belief that a ruler should learn self-discipline, should govern his subjects by his own example, and should treat them with love and concern.

To understand the importance of education in Western culture, we first look at what Plato (about 423 – 346 BC), Socrates (about 469 – 399 BC) and Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) thought.

When Plato talked about the education of the body, he said we had to take Spartan military gymnastics as a model, because it was based on physical exercises and prescribed severe control over all pleasures. Plato also argued for the public character of education and that it had to be given in buildings especially built for that purpose. In these schools, boys and girls should receive the same teaching and that the educational process should start as soon as possible, as young as three-to-six-years old.

Socrates believed that there were different kinds of knowledge, important and trivial. He acknowledges that most of us know many “trivial” things, and he said that the craftsman possesses important knowledge, the practice of his craft, but that this is important only to the craftsman. But Socrates thought that the most important of all knowledge was “how best to live.” He concluded that this was not easily answered, and most people lived in shameful ignorance regarding matters of ethics and morals. Socrates devoted much thought to the concept of belief, through the use of logic.

Aristotle, however, said that the purpose of the state was to educate the people—to make them virtuous. He said, virtue was the life principle of the state. The goal of the state was to educate with a view toward its own institutions (to preserve them)—through the political education of all citizens.

It is also arguable that the Bible probably has a large impact on what many Westerners think about the value of an education, but the focus of the Bible is mostly on fear of the Lord when it comes to learning—a mixed message at best when compared to what Confucius, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle thought.

Proverbs 9:9-10 says, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

2 John 1:9 – Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.


Watch the video to discover that the agenda of the Common Core State Standards in the United States is similar to the agenda of the Prussian Model of Obedience.

In conclusion, the value of an education is clearly defined by Confucius providing a solid foundation for East Asia, while in the West, the message is murky and confusing at best, because the Bible focuses on fear of the Lord, and that Scripture is profitable for teaching and training the righteous compared to Plato’s focus on harsh Spartan physical training in addition to severe self-control over all pleasures starting at an early age, and Aristotle focused on preserving government through political education of the people—in other words, brainwashing them.

Socrates may have been closer to the way Confucius thought about the value of an education, but not as clearly defined as Confucius.

Out of this muddle of Western thought eventually emerged the 18th century, Prussian Industrial Model of education more aligned with what Aristotle thought, and this system was adopted by most of Western Culture during the industrial revolution, including the United States.

The Prussian system instituted compulsory attendance, specific training for teachers, national testing for all students (used to classify children for potential job training), national curriculum set for each grade and mandatory kindergarten.

The Prussian public education model attempted to instill social obedience in the citizens through indoctrination. Every individual had to become convinced, in the core of his being, that the King was just, his decisions always right, and the need for obedience paramount. There was no room for individual thought or questioning authority that would develop in the United States and other Western countries after World War II.

Maybe the blind obedience that gave power to dictators like Hitler had something to do with that change in Western thought about public education, but today, with the emphasis on the Common Core State Standards and harsh punishment of children and teachers who don’t measure up, the United States may be returning to the harsher Aristotelian, Prussian Model of education to brainwash children so they grow up and give blind obedience to their leaders.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Halloween in the United States versus The Hungry Ghost Festival in China, and the money to be made

October 31, 2014

The closest celebration in China to Halloween in the United States is The Hungry Ghost Festival, which is celebrated the 14th or 15th night of the 7th lunar month in July or August.

The Ghost Festival, also known as The Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday celebrated by Chinese in many countries, in which ghosts and/or spirits of deceased ancestors come from the lower realm and/or hell to visit the living.

Buddhists from China and Taoists claim that the Ghost Festival originated with the canonical scriptures of Buddhism, but many of the visible aspects of the ceremonies originate from Chinese folk religion, and other local folk traditions (see Stephen Teiser’s 1988 book, The Ghost Festival in Medieval China).

In America, most children wear costumes and go door to door collecting free candy.  In China, food is offered to dead ancestors, joss paper is burned and scriptures are chanted.

Chinese Culture.net says the Hungry Ghost Festival is “Celebrated mostly in South China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and especially in Singapore and Malaysia… It is believed by many Chinese that during this month, the gates of hell are opened to let out the hungry ghosts who then want food.

By comparison, History.com says, “Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.”

I found it interesting that the dead linked both America’s Halloween and The Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival—at least historically.

As a child, I loved wearing a costume on Halloween and going out “trick-or-treating” at night to return home with a heavy bag (usually a pillowcase) filled with candy.

I still remember how much my stomach hurt and how terrible I felt after gorging myself on all that free candy.

Today, due to the epidemic of diabetes and overweight or obese children in the United States, I do not celebrate Halloween and do not give candy to children. The last time I gave treats to children on Halloween, I handed out small boxes of raisins (sweet dried grapes) instead of candy, and one mother called me cheap.

But Science Daily.com comes to my defense with: “Teenagers who consume a lot of added sugars in soft drinks and foods may have poor cholesterol profiles—which may possibly lead to heart disease in adulthood, according to first-of-its-kind research reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.”

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, “Teenagers and young adults consume more sugar drinks than other age groups and have been linked to poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity, and, in adults and children, type 2 diabetes.”

Then the Mayo Clinic said, “Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes. But type 2 diabetes in children is on the rise, fueled largely by the obesity epidemic,” and the American Diabetes Association says, “25.8 million children and adults in the US have diabetes while 79 million have prediabetes.

“Due to excessive sugar consumption, the risk of diabetes may lead to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system disease, and/or amputation of feet and legs.”


Americans are Addicted to Sugars

To be fair, I can’t leave out the for-profit candy and costume industry in the U.S. that salivates when Halloween arrives. For instance, Forbes reported that consumers spent $1.96 billion on decorations, $360 million on greeting cards, $2.08 billion on candy and $2.6 billion on costumes. Consider that next time you go out shopping for Halloween candy, you’re helping make the rich wealthier at the cost of your child’s health.

In fact, Americans should learn something from the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival. Do not feed sugary candy to children.  Instead, give the sugar to the dead and eat an apple—because there’s a lot of truth to the old saying that if you eat an apple a day, it will help keep the doctor away. And if you doubt that, then I suggest you read this post on Science Daily.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217210549.htm

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Who are the barbarians in today’s so-called modern world?

October 29, 2014

After I wrote Superior versus Civilized, which mentions that for millennia the Chinese considered everyone outside of the Middle Kingdom a barbarian, the subject stuck in my head.

Why?

As I researched the “Superior versus Civilized” post, I ran into Blogs where Westerners were calling the Chinese barbarians for a variety of reasons.

In this post, I will focus on the opinion I discovered in one Blog.


Warning, the images in this video are graphic and bloody.

The Blog, Animal Abuse in China, attempts building a case that the Chinese are barbarians in these words, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be determined by the way it treats its animal. China tortures animals while little children laugh and cheer. Help the animals who cannot help themselves from this horrific life of torture. Thousands die daily from torture! WE MUST PUT THE SPOTLIGHT ON CHINA!!”

However, if that opinion were true and China was guilty, then most nations are also guilty.

Watch the three YouTube videos to see what I mean.


Warning, the images in this video are graphic and bloody.

Many people in most countries are animal lovers but  still eat meat, and there is a lot of pain and suffering that takes place from feed lot to a sanitary package in a super market.

I don’t eat meat, but I’m not an animal lover. I don’t hate animals either. I’ve been a vegan since 1981. Imagine all the animals that didn’t suffer, because I stopped eating meat for health reasons.


Warning, the images in this video are graphic and bloody.

Let’s refer back to that opinion where it says, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be determined by the way it treats its animals.”

If true, America and all Western nations are filled with barbarians. Passing laws won’t change the behavior of people you might consider to be barbarians—wherever they live. New laws just means more people who get caught go to prison, and the United States already has more people locked up than any nation on the planet.

If you don’t believe that, study what happened in America during Prohibition (1920 – 1933). Just click on the link and look at what the charts reveal.

I’m going to borrow an “edited” quote attributed to Jesus Christ—who never wrote anything down—that says, Let the nation that has no guilt cast the first stone.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Let’s take a close look at how many deadbeats there are in the United States living off welfare

October 13, 2014

If you live in China and you think the streets in America are paved in gold, take a close look at how many deadbeats there are in the United States living off welfare, and you might be surprised who the real welfare queens are.

First, a few numbers to get started: there are more than 316 million Americans and 150.8 million are between the ages of 18 to 65—the primary working years for adults. In 2013, 47.1 million Americans lived below the poverty level; 73.6 million were under the age of 18, and 44.6 million were age 65 or older.

Wow, and in September 2014, there were 146.6 million Americans who were working at paid jobs.

But, a few, far-right billionaire oligarchs—for instance, the Walton family and the Koch brothers, and the fools who swallow their propaganda—think that more people in the United States are on welfare and are deadbeats than those who are working and supporting them.

I think it is arguable and safe to say that it would be a misleading lie that the majority of the Americans who are not working are deadbeats on welfare. Only a fool could think that. Is it possible that there are only 4.2 million Americans—who could be deadbeats—between 18 and 65 who do not have a paying job—that’s only 1.328% of the total population? I bet most of those 4.2 million are probably disabled and can’t work or are a stay at home parent.

Did you know ABC reported that Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world—more than the English, the French, the Germans or Norwegians and even, recently, more than the Japanese?

In addition, according to the OECD, in the United States 67% [that is almost 70%] of people aged 15 to 64 [the working class years] have a paid job. … And having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In the United States, 89% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, higher than the OECD average of 75%—and yet some billionaires, including Bill Gates [worth almost $80 billion], the Koch brothers and the Walton family, would have you believe that the public education system in the United States is failing and must be reformed.

20 Something Finance even says “The U.S. is the Most Overworked Developed Nation in the World.” And Business Insider says the average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime—based on a 5 day 8 hour workweek with a two week vacation annually, that equals 45 years. I worked 45 years, starting at 15 and I retired at 60.  My retirement check comes from CalSTRS, and I paid 8% of my gross income into CalSTRS for the 30 years I was a classroom teacher.

But a Houston based billionaire, according to the Democratic Underground, is attacking public pensions with a goal to kill the guaranteed-benefit plans that are run by teacher retirement systems in every state. This billionaire’s name is John Arnold, who is worth $2.9 billion dollars. Arnold runs a Houston-based hedge fund, and before that he worked for Enron, and it is said that he earned $750 million for Enron the year it went out of business. Huh, how do you earn $750 million for a company that goes out of business the same year?

Contrary to the popular thinking of fools, Social Security is not a form of welfare because workers and employers pay into that program for their entire working life, and in 2013, there were 38 million retired workers—nine out of ten individuals age 65 or older—who collected an average monthly benefit of $1,294. There were 4.9 million dependents; 8.8 million disabled workers, who were paid an average of $1,145 a month, and 6.2 million survivors—survivors are young children and a surviving spouse who cares for the children.

What about food stamps—a real welfare program?

From Media Matters.org we learn that nearly half (47% or 23 million), who get food stamps, were under the age of 18, and another 8 percent (3.9 million) were 60 or older; 41% (more than 20 million) lived in a household with earnings from a job. These workers are known as the “working poor”, and the average household on food stamps received a monthly benefit of $287.

And, these so-called deadbeats—that a few billionaires and a lot of fools think outnumber working Americans—are allegedly robbing us blind while they sit around drinking beer, eating popcorn and watching TV or having sex 18-hours a day to make more babies so they can collect more food stamps. If you believe that, then you might want to look in a mirror to see a fool.

If these billionaires succeed, what will replace progressive era plans like CalSTRS, Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and food stamps?

If we look back at history, we might discover the answer to that question. In 1900, before Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, FDR, Kennedy and LBJ, ushered in the progressive era, 40-percent of Americans lived in poverty with only a 5% unemployment rate, and up until 1938, in some states, children could be sold as young as five to factories, coal mines and whorehouses. Imagine your five-year old child working as a prostitute, because boys and girls were sold into prostitution back then when the U.S. was ruled by capitalist Robber Barons.

Is this the America a few billionaires, with help from some fools, are fighting to get back?

By the way, did you watch the video that comes with this post? It really is an educational eye opener.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Seeing “Mao’s Last Dancer” through a different lens

September 23, 2014

When I saw the film Mao’s Last Dancer—unlike most U.S. citizens—I went with two people who grew up in China and survived the Cultural Revolution.

As we left the theater, my Chinese friends made these comments. “Great movie. Well done. It shows what China went through. If American audiences don’t see this movie because the lead is Chinese, they don’t want to learn about China.”

The evidence seems to support this thinking because Mao’s Last Dancer only earned $4.8 million from the box office in the U.S. while earning almost $17.5 million in theaters outside the U.S.  Maybe the distributor had something to do with the results, because the film at its widest release was only in 137 theaters. In fact, we had to drive more than thirty miles to see it, because in the film’s first week, it was only in 33 theaters.

However, for the first showing of the day, it was a nice audience—several hundred at least.

Mao’s Last Dancer was a great but misleading title. When the dancer, Li Cunxin defected to the U.S. in 1981, Mao had been dead six years. How could he be Mao’s last dancer? In addition, there are ballet troupes all over China—even today—including Beijing where Li learned ballet.

The Huffington Post review said the movie was middlebrow and rises above the pack if only by a little.  The film critic was Marshall Fine, and I disagreed with him.

If Fine knew more about China’s history, he might understand why I disagree.

When Li was a child, China was in the middle of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, a form of national (or collective) madness that lasted about a decade and was ended by Deng Xiaoping after Mao’s death in 1976

Mao’s Last Dancer does a subtle but good job showing what rural life was like during the Cultural Revolution and afterward as attitudes started to change in China.

The movie also shows how tough the Chinese are when it comes to education. Working to gain an education is serious business in China—even today.  What you see while Li and the other children are learning ballet reveals the Chinese mindset.

The New York Times review was kinder but still off the mark.  Mike Hale, writing for the Times, said, “Mao’s Last Dancer is a story of a young and flexible Chinese man who comes to America, where he’s seduced by disco, creative freedom and a honey-haired Houston virgin–”

Can anyone blame young Li for being seduced by a glitzy party country build on debt while the early 1980’s China is a drab, colorless place just emerging from its shell? At the time, China’s metamorphosis was just beginning.

If Li had gone home to China and married the Chinese ballerina he was courting, today he would be living a lifestyle similar to what he saw in America. China has changed that much.

What took the U.S. more than a century to achieve, China accomplished in the thirty years since 1981. In fact, I was disappointed that there wasn’t a scene near the end showing one of China’s modern cities that compares to the Houston Li saw when he first arrived in the U.S.

Hall’s conclusion was wrong. Mao’s Last Dancer is not “strenuously brainless”.  If Hall knew more about China, he would understand why my two Chinese friends believed the movie was worth seeing for its story and its educational value.

It seems that the Amazon reviewers of the film for Mao’s Last Dancer might agree with me because 133 of the 170 reviews have 5-stars.  The average for the film was also 4.6 of 5. The book had 215 reviews for another average of 4.6 stars, and there were 156, 5-star reviews.

In the previous video, Li Cunxin mentions the poverty and hunger he knew as a child under Mao’s leadership of China.

However, while true, it would be misleading to think that conditions were better before Mao. Under Mao—even with the purges, the Great Famine (1959 – 1961) and the Cultural Revolution—the quality of life for the average Chinese improved steadily, if slowly, and the strongest evidence of that is life expectancy. Life expectancy was only 36.5 years in 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was founded, and the population was 400 million. In 1976, when Mao died, life expectancy had increased by 20 years to 56.5 with a population of 700 million. Today, life expectancy is 73.3 years with a population that is more than 1.3 billion.

In fact [China is known as the land of famines—Between 108 BC and 1911 AD, there were no fewer than 1,828 famines in China, or one nearly every year in one province or another. However, the famines varied greatly in severity.], throughout most of Chinese history the majority of Chinese have lived in poverty. As the hundreds of famines that have killed millions of Chinese attest, Chinese poverty has often been absolute, i.e., lacking the very material resources needed to sustain life and maintain health. … The PRC is the first Chinese government [in China’s long history] to attempt systematically to reduce both inequality and poverty. Griffith University, Australia. Poverty by David C. Schak

The Word Bank says, “Between 1981 and 2001, the proportion of population living in poverty in China fell from 53 percent to just eight percent.”

Be aware that China’s critics are always quick to cherry pick any facts that will make the PRC look bad without history or context.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


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